The Wartime Sisters

The Wartime Sisters

The Wartime Sisters by Lynda Cohen Loigman (Historical Fiction)

Another World War II novel, this one set in Springfield, Massachusetts, at the Springfield Armory. The author grew up in the area and has done a thorough job of researching the armory’s history and physical setting. She has read all of the old armory newsletters,  knows how the officers and their families lived, and understands how work in the munitions factories went. Still, I have a hard time thinking of this as historical fiction, for the story that is told could be set anywhere, any time. The armory and World War II simply provide an interesting (and currently popular) environment.

Two sisters have been estranged for most of their lives. Ruth, the serious one, has always resented her younger sister’s beauty and active social life. Everyone notices Millie; Ruth is invisible. They go their separate ways as adults, but then circumstances throw them back together when Millie shows up at Ruth’s door with a two-year-old and a husband who is MIA.

Ruth is happily married. Her husband is an officer stationed at the armory, and she has young twin daughters. Still, she is reserved and unsure of herself in social settings, and when Millie comes back into her life, old resentments flare. She relives every petty conflict and every perceived slight from their youth. Millie, meanwhile, is struggling to make ends meet and to take care of her child. She takes an armory job making triggers. But instead of endearing her to Ruth, their reversed social status only seems to make things worse. Ruth finds Millie a burden she must endure. Millie longs to get away from her bossy older sister.

The blurb for the novel refers to “deep secrets” that each sister carries, but they weren’t that deep nor were they a big surprise. There is some tension, a fleeting moment or two of danger, but any dangerous situations are quickly resolved. In short, there’s not a lot of new stuff here. As for the era, other than some name-dropping and a rare reference to a restaurant or club where Jews are not allowed, we’re not overly aware of the times. The war doesn’t really influence our protagonists’ daily lives beyond the fact that the armory makes arms and there’s a shortage of sensible shoes. The working class goes to work, and the haughty officers’ wives could be high society matrons anywhere.

Three stars.

This reviewer received a free ARC from the publisher via NetGalley.

This book will be released on January 22, 2019, and is available for pre-order.

Revenants: The Odyssey Home


Revenants: The Odyssey Home by Scott Kauffman (Historical Fiction)

A revenant is a person who returns after a long absence. In this book, more than one revenant is making the long trip back.

In an Ohio hospital in 1973, an unknown veteran of World War I is secreted away in a hidden room. Meanwhile, a teen-aged candy striper working in that hospital has recently lost her brother in Viet Nam and is now making bad decisions that threaten to derail her future. When she accidentally discovers the hideously injured old soldier, she decides she will get him home to his family before he dies. But no one seems to know who he is or where he comes from, except for one person who has good reason to keep him hidden. In the process of unearthing the soldier’s life story, the girl comes to realize the significance of honoring her brother’s memory by living her own life to the fullest.

This absorbing book takes the reader into the trenches of WWI as well as into the hearts and minds of characters who have lost loved ones in Vietnam or WWI. We witness the pain experienced by siblings, the despair and heartbreak of parents, and the anguish of girlfriends and fiancés who still suffer decades later. We feel the meaningless waste of young people with everything to live for, and we can only try to imagine the hell of being trapped in what remains of a body after horrifying injuries that render one unable to hear, see, walk, or communicate. At the same time, we watch the human spirit fight back, overcome, and go on.

This is not a light or happy book, but it is a book worth reading. While generally well-written, it does have some dialogue without sufficient dialogue tags so that at times it is hard to know who’s speaking. There are several noticeable spots where the final period is missing, and occasionally, a wrong word is used, my favorite being copula (a real word) when the author meant cupola.

Grandma gives Revenants: The Odyssey Home four stars. 4 stars

Bella Reads and Reviews received a free copy of the book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Fall From Grace

Fall From Grace

Fall From Grace by J. Edward Ritchie (Fantasy)

Fall From Grace is a riveting fictional account of the heavenly schism that turns brother angels Michael and Satanail into arch enemies, destroys the peace and tranquility of heaven, and results in the emergence of Satan and the concept of eternal damnation.

Designated by the Creator as His Word and His Hand, respectively, Michael and Satanail are the most highly revered among the seven Seraphim — the highest order in the angelic hierarchy. In an environment free from discord, they have always maintained a good-natured rivalry built on mutual respect and brotherly love. But when the Creator reveals the existence of mankind only to Michael, Satanail is filled with resentment — an unfamiliar emotion he strives to contain. To make matters worse, Michael states that the Creator expects the angels to protect mankind from destroying itself. Satanail argues against such subservience, his anger boiling into rebellion and open defiance. Angels at all levels are forced to choose sides as a battle between good and evil commences.

J. Edward Ritchie has researched the religious and mythological lore of celestial beings to produce a fascinating, complex heavenly society populated by three-dimensional characters with strong personalities, unique capabilities, and credible emotions and motives. Satanail is a likeable individual, and his metamorphosis into Satan is not without internal conflict. The familiar archangels of my childhood — Gabriel, Michael, and Raphael — are among the seven Seraphim with dominion over seven regions of heaven, each contributing to the needs of the heavenly population known as the Host. Ritchie’s use of language is eloquent, in keeping with the nature of the story to be told, and he captured my interest from the very beginning. Battle scenes and other scenes do contain a fair amount of gory detail.

All in all, I found it to be a very satisfying book with a number of important messages, including this from Gabriel when Michael suffers from profound doubts about the decisions he has made: “I believe that we all have roles in this life. Maybe they’re not the ones we’d hoped for, maybe we even stray from them, but they’re ours to own. So we do it, because that’s what needs to be done. Those who can’t understand that will always be followers, never leaders.”

Grandma gives Fall From Grace five stars. 5 stars

Bella Reads and Reviews received a free copy from the author in return for an honest review.

Savaged Lands

Savaged Lands

Savaged Lands by Lana Kortchik (Historical Fiction)

Savaged Lands tells the story of a family in Nazi-occupied Ukraine during World War II as seen through the eyes of the elder teen-aged daughter, Natasha. It is also a love story and a testament to human endurance and survival under the worst of circumstances.

In September, 1941, Natasha, her younger sister and brother, parents, and maternal grandparents are living together in Kiev when the Nazi occupation begins. An older brother is already serving in the Soviet Army. Things soon take a turn for the worse as German soldiers begin a brutal campaign against the citizens of Kiev, confiscating their radios and all of their food, commandeering their homes and their warm clothing, and subjecting them to continuous terror and fear. Jewish families, including that of Natasha’s best friend, are driven from their homes and marched through the streets, never to be seen again. Natasha’s father is arrested and sent to a labor camp. Her sister’s fiancé disappears. When the harsh Ukrainian winter sets in, things only get worse for those who remain. Meanwhile Natasha and a Hungarian soldier fall in love, a dangerous relationship for both of them if they are caught together.

Lana Kortchik is a gifted writer whose prose pulled me right in. Her knowledge of Kiev and its history made this an absorbing read, simultaneously heartbreaking and uplifting because the suffering, the hardships, the losses, and the triumphs were real. She created well-developed characters with weaknesses I could understand, strengths I could believe in, and fates I cared about. I found myself reading this book late into the night.

Grandma gives Savaged Lands five stars. 5 stars

Bella Reads and Reviews received a free copy of this book in return for an honest review.